The McLean County Home Place, the county’s senior services center in Calhoun that burned down in December 2020, is looking to break ground this summer.
Judge-Executive Curtis Dame said that the hope is to have construction begin on the new facility in July, depending on how many firms bid to build the facility and what their respective time frames are from start to finish.
The facility, which will be located in its previous and original location at 875 Walnut St., did not have a determined cause of the fire but unofficially was deemed to be due to a possibly faulty thermal unit.
“That was our saving grace because it proved that we had the facility up to code, up to par with how things were stored,” Dame said. “There weren’t any fuel sources near any heating elements. But regardless, the facility still burned down.”
Cleanup for the site began in February 2021, followed by approval by the McLean County Fiscal Court on a surveyor contract to place flood elevations pins for the site assessment and selecting RBS Design Group in Owensboro as the architect for the new facility.
Scott Settle, director of the senior services program, said that despite being displaced from the facility has been challenging, they have been able to still hold programs in some capacity and he and his seven-person staff made sure the seniors have not missed a single meal for the past year-and-a-half.
Senior activities have since been housed at Livermore City Hall along with other satellite locations throughout communities in the county.
“(Livermore City Hall) has accommodated us in every way that they can to help (us) get back on track,” Settle said.
The current design is to be reviewed by the fiscal court before preparing for site preparation and raising the elevation above the amended floodplain map before starting the physical construction.
The facility will be restored to its original size of 6,600-square-feet but will see changes to the floor plan due to the rules for designing the facility and code requirements have changed since the original building was built in 1993.
“…That has added more complexity to the situation but also (gives us the) capabilities to design this facility where it is more accessible to the clientele that are going to use this building,” Dame said.
The exterior of the building will be full brick, which is similar to the previous facility, and will feature automatic doors and canopies above entryways in the front and back of the building — both that were not in the original plan.
“In all actuality, we want KACo (Kentucky Association of Counties) to help us rebuild this facility at the lowest cost to local tax dollars,” Dame said. “And so far, we’re on track to do that.”
Improvements are also planned to be made to the parking and trying to add an additional entrance to the facility off Walnut Street.
The interior is to include a multi-purpose room that can be used for meetings during and after hours by seniors and the rest of the general public, a commercial-grade kitchen, a reception area, two public restrooms, one staff restroom, an office space, mechanical room, storage space and a separate kitchen storage room.
Settle said that having the rebuilt facility will help with having more efficient senior service programs.
“We’re looking forward to it …,” Settle said. “And the seniors miss it. They call me daily and want to know when something is going to (get) started (and) when are going to get back together.”
Settle said that the senior services program is important to the community and the building itself was a central place for county seniors to see one another.
“The most vital thing is the socialization of the seniors. Some of those people (don’t) have anybody …,” Settle said. “That is a place to come and talk to people their age and interact. …There’s more to the senior program than coming there to eat. …It’s really important to keep (the) seniors active.”
Dame said the new facility will take advantage of the opportunity to expand on some of the spaces, such as the kitchen due to its prior use for congregate and home delivered meals, which is “a prime program” for the senior services fund.
“Not only are we going to replace what we had, but in some ways expand our capabilities for the future,” Dame said.
Dame said the facility will be designed to also serve as an emergency shelter that can provide assistance and food to senior citizens with plans to install a back-up generator.
Additionally, Dame said the building will be built to energy-efficient specifications, which he hopes will help free up future funds for the senior services fund.
“We’re actually going to gain broad spectrum capacities with this new facility,” Dame said.
Dame said that there has been some assistance regarding the construction process.
Currently, Dame said that a third-party firm hired by RBS is testing the dirt that will be used at the facility, which is crucial before beginning to build.
“You can’t just haul in any dirt from anywhere in the county and have it be suitable to build a facility of this size,” Dame said. “We don’t want the foundation to settle and cause issues with the foundation being degraded or issues with the concrete cracking …. It’s a very tedious process but it’s one that I think will save us problems 15 to 20 years from now.”
According to Dame, movement regarding the building has been slow due to factors such as the “sustainable price increase of materials,” issues with the floodplain mapping changes to the property, financial restrictions that the court has to adhere to regarding bid cap limits and renting large-scale equipment to clean up the site.
Dame said that it’s vital to raise the site in order to combat the floodplain issue due to recent heavy rainfall events that the county has experienced and wants to prevent future problems.
“I know everybody wanted the facility built sooner. I’m in (agreement) with that, too,” Dame said. “I’ve been frustrated with the amount of hurdles that we’ve had to go through. I would rank this as probably one of the top two most difficult projects that I’ve worked on since becoming judge-executive.”
Settle said not having a permanent senior center has presented challenges.
“It has been very difficult because we can’t do the activities that we used to do for the county,” Settle said. “It just put a damper on everything but it takes time to get these things done.”
Still, Dame said that the project has been a group effort such as having a local committee of citizens help with the process in order to be assured that the new building was what the community needed and wanted.
“We tried to get enough programmatic input to make sure that the changes that we do are a benefit and not a hindrance to the facility,” Dame said. “…Once it is completed, sooner rather than later, we will be happy with the final product that we receive.”